"Legends of Gaming" is a digital reality TV series that pits popular professional gamers and streamers against one another in a competition of various games to see who is the best overall. The series began in the U.K., and now it’s coming to the U.S. -- starting Wednesday.
Episodes of the show are streamed on YouTube as part of the new Smasher network from Endemol Beyond USA, the digital content division of the media company Endemol, which is responsible for the production and distribution of shows like "Big Brother" and "Deal or No Deal." The new "Legends of Gaming" is hosted by Toby "Tobuscus" Turner, a YouTube star with over 6.3 million subscribers on his main channel alone.
Endemol says the Smasher network will focus specifically on gaming and eSports content and it plans to announce more about it later this week.
In "Legends of Gaming" four coaches have been brought in to help the gamers in titles they may not be comfortable playing, and they are just as notable as the contestants themselves.
The coaches include Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel (known for playing games like "Quake" and arguably one of the world’s first successful professional gamers), popular fighting-game player Carl "Perfect Legend" White, George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis, who founded the eSports organization Counter Logic Gaming (well known for its "League of Legends" team), and "World of Warcraft" and "Hearthstone" player and streamer Rumay "Hafu" Wang.
"Legends of Gaming" will have about 40 short episodes altogether, in which the eight gamers -- whose handles are The Jovenshire, Syndicate Project, iiJERiiCHOii, Terroriser, TmarTn, OMGitsfirefoxx, Lui Calibre and runJDrun -- compete. But unlike the U.K. version, which focuses on solo and one-vs.-one games, the U.S. edition will see a lot more team play.
"When we’re playing together, it creates this kind of family that you get into," the host Turner told International Business Times. "It’s like you’re sitting at home playing. It’s comfortable … The result is sort of a hilarious attempt of us to improve the skills of these gamers, which doesn’t necessarily happen."
Turner also says the production value is higher than that of the U.K. version, with Pizza Hut coming on as an "integral brand partner" for the series. The first season of the U.K. edition was "powered by Mattessons Fridge Raiders," a snack line from a big U.K.-based manufacturer. This increase in production includes a "beautiful stage" in which it “looks like we’re on a spaceship," says Turner.
The majority of the Smasher network's revenue comes from partnerships with brands, like the one with Pizza Hut. It also generates revenue through licensing deals that release exclusive content on platforms like Verizon's go90, says Adrian Sexton, interim president and chief operating officer of Endemol Beyond USA.
"There’s a lot of fog," says coach Wendel. "It looks really good, more like a traditional show … I know a lot of characters; they’re all on this show."
Thanks to having so many big personalities in one room, you can apparently expect some funny bloopers from the set and behind the scenes.
For Wendel, coaching the competitors wasn’t always easy, and the sessions with his two players were more quick tips on what not to do and what to do as much as possible.
"It was very painful because all the games they played I’m really good at," says Wendel. "One game I was a world champion at. I played them every day, so I’m a little bit more hardcore.
"Some of my guys were very good at ‘Counter-Strike,’ other games like ‘Hearthstone’ were particularly interesting to watch. Every player specializes in certain games … I try to educate them and push them as much as I can, quickly."
Some of the other games that will be played throughout the series include popular vehicle soccer game "Rocket League" and "#IDARB," an 8-bit game in which the two teams jump around platforms and try to put the ball in the other team’s goal.
The interesting thing about "#IDARB" is the social aspect of the game. Viewers that are watching the match can interfere with the gameplay using a special hashtag called a hashbomb, which can summon a low-resolution image of singer Rick Astley to hum his hit "Never Gonna Give You Up," force the screen to do a barrel roll, turn players into clowns, or flood the arena with water, to name a few features.
As the host, Turner says he had a lot of fun with the hashbomb feature while the players were competing, which apparently frustrated them a lot.
"He was basically playing God in the game, and playing with people’s lives," says Wendel. "People who watch the show will be very entertained and hopefully it will inspire people to compete and play more -- to help the growth of eSports."
"Legends of Gaming" goes live at 7 a.m. PT on the Smasher Legends YouTube channel, or watch it below.